24-39 GHz Spectrum Availability And Roles In 5G

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While a large amount of the spectrum that could be used for 5G networks is either already owned by wireless carriers or set to be auctioned off in the FCC's incentive auction, a startling amount of spectrum in some of the bands that would be most useful for 5G development is still owned by the FCC for one reason or another. While a lot of it was issued before wireless cellular networks were a thing and then found its way back to the FCC, some of it was foreclosed on for not meeting buildout deadlines and yet more was never issued to begin with. The spectrum areas being talked about specifically are 24 GHz, 28-29 GHz, 31 GHz and 39 GHz. These high-band spectrum bands offer superior speed and the possibility of a massive and cheap buildout of a high-speed network, if used properly. Each band, in essence, has its own role and its own availability based on both amount and geographical regions.

Maps provided by Allnet Insight and Analytics do a fairly good job of illustrating what spectrum in these areas is left in the FCC's hands and where it lurks. 24 GHz, for starters, has availability between 500 and 350 MHz in most of the nation, but the southwest in particular has a decent portion already spoken for, with between 350 and 150 MHz owned by the FCC in most areas. The 28-29 GHz bands, on the other hand, sees most of the northwestern U.S. having high availability with almost all of the spectrum taken in the east. Of course, there are specks and patches of availability fluctuation everywhere. Curiously, the spectrum alternates between completely spoken for and completely available from area to area, with almost no neutral ground. 31 GHz has much lower availability, mostly spoken for and almost completely so everywhere except the midwest and northwest. 39 GHz has almost full availability everywhere, with patches of use here and there. Interestingly, there is literally no availability in Utah.

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24 GHz and 39 GHz are both ideal for waypoint to waypoint transmission in relay networks, rather than reaching out to end users. They both have five channels and are highly compatible. 24 GHz, being a lower frequency, has better range and penetration, while 39 GHz has higher data speed potential. 28-29 GHz, meanwhile, is good for fixed wireless services, such as those used by businesses. 31 GHz wireless spectrum is best used for endpoint to user network outreach, in the scheme of 5G buildout. With each unique type of spectrum having its own role, carriers will have to balance the different spectrums with their own holdings to play geographically to each band's strengths in order to optimize their buildout. Some spectrum in these bands, of course, is already owned by carriers, but only enough to conduct limited area 5G testing, for now. For the full details, maps and a much more technical breakdown, check out the source link.